As you build your estate plan, you will be warned about the perils of probate. The probate attorney team at Replogle, Tyrrell, & Robertson would be happy to help you steer clear of this stressful, complicated, and time-consuming legal process.
What is probate?
After a person dies, their estate must go through a formal, court-supervised legal process known as probate. Probate is essentially the management, administration, and distribution of the decedent’s estate. Involving extensive paperwork, court appearances, and assistance from a probate attorney, probate can be expensive and lengthy. It is meant to protect the decedent’s creditors and beneficiaries’ rights to the estate.
How does probate work?
After a person’s death, the property of the decedent is held and managed by the executor of the estate, who is named by the decedent in the will. The executor must publish notice to the beneficiaries and creditors, so that claimants have time to submit claims and beneficiaries can object to the petition. The executor must also make an inventory of all the assets within the estate and appraise them. Upon approval by the probate court, the executor will pay claims, debts, fees, taxes, and other expenses from the decedent’s estate before distributing the remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries as described in the will. The entire probate process requires many stages, responsibilities, and due dates, but these steps outline the basic procedure.
Does all property go through probate?
No, probate is not always necessary. In some states, a certain amount of property can pass through without being subject to probate. For example, in Missouri, if a decedent’s estate values less than $40,000, you can avoid the full probate process using small estate certification. In addition, if you would like to avoid probate, you can do so using several different methods.
Why should I avoid probate?
Although probate is sometimes necessary, most people choose to avoid it with a carefully considered estate plan. There are many reasons for this, which you can discuss in more detail with your probate attorney, but the following are common concerns:
- Probate takes time. The tedious and extensive process could tie up your assets for months or more than a year, preventing your beneficiaries from receiving their rightful endowment in a timely manner. In Missouri, it will take at least six months and ten days for the estate to be distributed.
- The administration of a probate estate involves numerous expenses, including bond premiums, costs of publication, court costs, and probate attorney fees. Many of these fees will depend on the size and complexity of the estate. To pay for any costs that arise, your executor will pull money from your estate, shrinking your assets and limiting your beneficiaries’ endowments in the process.
- Probate tends to incite stress. Your executor might find it stressful to handle your estate’s management and distribution. Your beneficiaries may be stressed if they have to wait many months to receive their piece of the estate. Plus, the thought of leaving your executor with the responsibility of administering your estate may cause you stress. Fortunately, you can avoid all of this anxiety by avoiding probate.
If your estate plan is very complicated or you have extensive debts, you may find that probate is worthwhile and appropriate. Or, if you have very little property, your estate may qualify for a simplified probate procedure, so an avoidance strategy won’t be worth the trouble. However, most of the time, probate is costly and unnecessary.
How can I avoid probate?
If you would like to avoid probate, consult the probate attorney team at Replogle, Tyrrell, & Robertson. There are several simple and effective ways for you to bypass this frustrating legal process by editing and adjusting your estate plan. For example, the most common solution is to form a revocable living trust, because property placed in a trust belongs to the trustee, not the probate estate. Other solutions include converting bank and retirement accounts to payable-on-death accounts, sharing ownership of property, naming beneficiaries to your life insurance or retirement accounts, or giving away property as a gift prior to your death.
Contact the Probate Attorney Team At RTR
The probate attorney team at Replogle, Tyrrell, & Robertson would be happy to help you better understand probate, avoid probate, or even build an estate plan from scratch. To get started, please give us a call at 417-859-3979 (Marshfield office) or 417-893-5121 (Springfield office).